Spring is coming, and this is one of the best times of the year to ramp up your nature studies.
Here are ten wonderful ways to work nature into your homeschooling for science, math, literature and more.
1. Set up an erosion station. Here's a wonderful, hands-on experiment that teaches children how various plants and materials affect erosion, using plastic water bottles, dirt and several natural materials. Click on the translate button on the top to convert it to English.
2. Start some seeds. This is the time to get a start on that summer garden with vegetables that need a big head-start. You can find garden planning calendars and seed starting charts here to make it easy.
3. Start some garden plants from dinner scraps. You don't need to buy seeds or plants at all to start some veggies for your summer garden. You can grow new green onions from the roots of old ones, lettuce from stumps, basil plants from rooted cuttings and more. Here's more info:
4. Use the free Project Noah app to log and ID bugs, birds, seeds and more. You can read more about how one homeschool family uses this wonderful Citizen Scientist app at Momma Owl's Lab, where she shares:
This is such a great tool for citizen science! Spottings can be added to "missions", such as "Birds of the World" or "Global Urban Biodiversity". There are also the "BioBlitz" in which participants identify and count all the organisms found in a given area, say Rocky Mountain State Park. You can also create your own mission - this would be really cool to do in a school, nature center or homeschool setting! Maybe we should do a BioBlitz of our new backyard!
Other tools on the website and mobile application include a map on which you can search for spottings in your local area or by types of organisms. It's pretty cool to see the spottings that are posted from all over the world. You can also share your spotting via Facebook or Twitter and connect to friends that are also also using Project Noah.
5. Do some worm calling. Here's simple instructions from Parents.com on how to use sticks to send vibrations into the earth and call some worms.
6. Cook with flowers. You can find edible flower recipes for ten different types of flowers here, and here are some compilations of recipes for
- Ten edible flowers and how to use them
- 10 terrific ways to cook with tulips
- Wonderful ways to cook and entertain with violets and pansies
- From capers to pesto to flavored vinegars: Great ways to cook with nasturtiums
- Ten more dandelion recipes to make with kids
7. Catch the grass breathing. Here's another fun experiment from Parents.com. Use a glass jar to trap water vapor caused by grass or other plants releasing oxygen, while a control jar over the sidewalk shows no vapor at all.
8. Test your soil's pH with vinegar. It's important to know how acidic or alkaline your soil is to best meet the needs of your garden plants. Here's an easy way to use vinegar to test it, from This Old House:
Place a handful of dirt into a small container and sprinkle vinegar on it. If it fizzes, the soil is alkaline; adjust the pH with an acid amendment.
Extension: Want to really have fun with your garden and pH? Try planting some hydrangeas in pots in your garden, with three different levels of soil pH. Gardener's Supply explains how pH levels affect the color of hydrangea blooms:
Hydrangeas with bloom colors that range from pink through blue and purple usually belong to the hydrangea cultivars known as mopheads and lacecaps. These types of hydrangeas have the interesting ability to change the color of their blooms based on the chemistry of the soil. When grown in alkaline soil, the bloom colors are pinker. When grown in acidic soil, the bloom colors are bluer.
See the site for more information on how to change the pH level in each pot and what levels to aim for.
For an awesomely fun science experiment to expand on the pH theme (our family's all time favorite science experiment) also see The Purple Cabbage pH Experiment.
9. Help the birds build their nests. Use suet cages to put out lots of varieties for birds to build their nests from, such as short lengths of yarn and even hair from your hairbrushes. About.com Birding says:
Scraps should be trimmed to lengths of 3-8 inches (7.6-20.3 cm) to be most useful to the birds. Shorter scraps cannot be used for nest construction, and longer scraps pose a threat of tangling causing injuries, strangulation or even death.
Birds can have preferences for certain types of yarn (such as natural and synthetic) and even for colors. Watch to see which ones your local birds like best and see if you can spot your family's colorful yarn in nests in the coming months!
10. Make carnation rainbows. This can be a fun rainbow themed activity for St. Patrick's Day or just a general fun spring activity. This classic science experiment is a tradition for a reason. It quite simply shows kids how flowers transport water and is also just pretty! Put white carnations in glasses of water tinted with various colors of food coloring and then watch over the next few days as the petals turn the colors of the water. For a fun variation, split the stems on some and put half in one color of water and half in another.
These are just a few of the ways to enjoy nature with the kids in spring. Stay tuned for more fun nature study activities.